In this Sri Lanka travel blog I am giving you an ideal Sri Lanka itinerary from North to South. The North of Sri Lanka is way less touristic than the center and the South but there are still many beautiful places to see.
Sri Lanka travel blog – What to see in Jaffna and surroundings
Very up North is the city of Jaffna and close by some islands that are up and coming. It is also home of important Buddhist and Hindu temples.
In Jaffna an important Hindu temple is Nallur Kandaswami Kovil. Indeed the North of Sri Lanka is home to many Hindus who travel from all around the world for Kodiyetram, a very important festival hold in the Month of August. See pictures below as we were able to witness it.
When in Jaffna, you might also want to visit the fort and the bazaar. To me the fort was not that impressing as there is nothing left and it is not in use like the one in Galle. If you are into history, it might be an interesting sight though as it was built by the Portuguese in 1618 and is the second largest fort in Sri Lanka.
What I found more interesting around Jaffna city are the islands close by. It is only on Nainativu island that there are two interesting temples to see : Nagadeepa purana viharaya an ancient buddhist temple and Nainativu Nagapooshani Amman Temple an hindu temple. But it is nice to drive on the causeways, see fishing villages and just the life in Sri Lanka where it is not touristic at all.
The ancient city of Anuradhapura – UNESCO world heritage in Sri Lanka
Anuradhapura is the most celebrated of Sri Lanka’s ancient ruined cities. It was the first capital of Sri Lanka founded in 380 B.C. by King Pandukahabaya and is now a UNESCO world heritage. There are many sites ruins of the ancient city to see but not only. Anuradhapura has also the largest buddhist stupa in Sri Lanka : Ruwanwelisaya. It is one of the most important buddhist site in the world as well as the Sri Maha Bodhi Tree that has been planted from a sapling from the original tree under which Buddha attained enlightenment.Book your day trip here.
Make a detour off your Sri Lanka itinerary to go to Mini World’s End or World’s end
Mini World’s end and World’s end are for everyone who wants to travel off the beaten track in Sri Lanka. We didn’t go to Wold’s end but we went to Mini World’s end. Both place are quite similar but Mini World’s end in the Riverston are also is great to see waterfalls : “Sera Ella” and “Bambarakiri Ella” waterfalls.
To reach Mini World’s end you will need to go off the main roads and take sharp roads in the Riverston area. You will by car and then on a little walk through the fields before reaching Mini World’s End. There you will have great views over the surrounding paddy fields as well as the Knuckles mountain range.
Must see in Sri lanka – Sigiriya rock fortress
Not far from Dambulla is the Sigirya rock fortress that you should not miss on your itinerary.
The best view of Sigiriya Rock from Pidurangala rock
While the rock itself is very nice to see I want first to give you the tip to climb the Pidurangala rock that is situated in from of Sigiriya. That way, you can see the actual fortress from the opposite side. We climbed early in the morning for sunrise. The hike itself is not difficult, only the last part is a bit tricky but totally worth it.
In the afternoon we went to Sigiriya. We went on a bank holiday and honestly I have rarely seen that many people. I liked that, even the Eiffel tower has less visitors than Sigiriya.
But what is Sigirya?
Sigiriya is breathtaking, and probably one of the best places in Sri Lanka. It is a 200 high rock on which used to be a monastery, then a royal residence before becoming a monastery again. Also Sigiriya is a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1982.
Add a safari to your Sri Lanka itinerary
There are many places where you can go on a safari in Sri Lanka. Most of them being in the South. If you want to see elephants, you might consider going to one of the National Park in the Habarana Area. There you can see a lot of elephants. We went to Kaudulla National Park. It is close a huge waterpoint so that it is sure that you will see elephants who come to drink.
I enjoyed the safari but it was definitely VERY crowded.
Go from Kandy to Ella by train
One of the highlight of Sri Lanka was definitely the train ride that we took. The train goes from Kandy to Ella but we stopped at Nanu Oya. This is the train that you can see on Instagram where everyone is hanging out from the door train 🙂 See below.
The train ride goes through many tea plantations and waterfalls. It is absolutely beautiful. I have heard that the train can be very crowded so that it is best to reserve a seat in advance.
Visit the Tea fields around Ella and Ella Nine Arches bridge
Don’t miss the tea plantations around Ella. You can visit a tea factory and taste the world famous Ceylon tea. A must do when in Sri Lanka.
Don’t miss Ella if you have the chance. I did not go there but the pictures of Ella and the Nine Arches Bridge make me want to go back to Sri Lanka just to be able to visit.
Not to miss on your Sri Lanka Itinerary – the South West coast of Sri Lanka
From Kikkaduwa that is the most famous tourist beach in Sri Lanka to Tangalle, there are many beautiful beaches to visit. Some of them being the most Instagrammable places in Sri Lanka. I loved Tangalle and more exactly Marakolliya beach. It has lovely bars and restaurants and bungalows right by the beach. I also like Goyambokka beach. There is the Think Club, a place owned by a father and his son. While the father fishes, the son cooks and it is absolutely lovely.
For the most hipsters among you, you will love Hiriketiya beach. It is the perfect surfer spot and it has a few very hip restaurants and accommodations.
Mirissa is lovely too. I loved the beach there and it has good accommodations and restaurant. It is also from there that you can go see whale watching!
Finally going back up North, there is Dalawella beach, famous for it’s rock on the beach that you probably saw on Instagram. Unawatuna is the closest beach to Galle. It is the most touristic beach in Sri Lanka but I prefered some of the beaches in the area like for example Jungle beach.
From Unawatuna up north the coast, there are of course many beaches but most of them are not for swimming because the current is too strong. If you still want to visit this part of Sri Lanka, consider staying in an Ayurveda resort like I did where I experienced an Ayurveda and Yoga retreat at Siddhalepa resort. The hotel was by the beach so that it was in a nice surrounding even though it was not possible to swim there
Don’t miss Galle Fort
Before ending this Sri Lanka itinerary around the island and going back to Colombo, you should not miss Galle Fort.
At first I didn’t plan to visit because I was so disappointed by the fort in Jaffna. But because I had time before my flight and I didn’t want to hang out in Colombo as I already visited the city at arrival, I decided that I would still give Galle a try. Actually I loved it. Inside the fort are a lot of cool shops and cafés. It is the perfect place to buy souvenirs from Sri Lanka!!
Fazit Sri Lanka Travel Blog
To end this Sri Lanka travel blog I want to say that I was so surprised by Sri Lanka. I was in India before and I expected Sri Lanka to be similar than Kerala. It is in some aspects as it has forts, it is very green etc but it still surprised me. From the rich culture in the North to the beautiful beaches in the South via the green landscapes in the center of the island, this country has so much to offer.
I visited shortly after the attack that happened earlier this month and I can’t recommend you enough to go to Sri Lanka and support this country. Indeed, Sri Lanka’s main economy is tourism so by visiting you are helping the country.
I hope you got inspired by this Sri Lanka itinerary. Of course I haven’t visited all the country yet and I would love to go back to see Ella, visit the beaches in the West and take another safari to see leopards in Yala.